Thursday, April 21, 2016

Throwback Thursday: The Cry That Broke Momma's Heart

April is "the month of the military child" and I'll be the first to admit that I'm not really sure what that means. Military child "appreciation" month? Military child recognition month? I have no clue. It usually passes virtually unnoticed. We made it over half-way through the month before I remembered. I initially shrugged it off until I was going through some old facebook posts and ran across one I'd almost completely (but not quite) forgotten about. I wrote it shortly after we had PCSd (military lingo for moved to a new location) to Alaska. The first couple months up here were a bit of a doozy for all of us, both physically and emotionally. And, as if adjusting to a new location weren't bad enough, October rolled around and Congress decided to play chicken with balancing the budget. Again. And, again, that meant because they couldn't balance the budget that military pay was threatened until they could reach an agreement. Before this gets to political I'd like to point out that both parties are responsible for this - it's like Social Security and military pay are their bargaining chips. The uproar would be enormous if the military didn't get paid (thankfully our bank has our back even if our government doesn't) so instead of protecting that pay, which has been proposed more than once, they use it as a tool. It never ceases to tick me off. So there you have a little background as to what was going in our lives and minds when I wrote this post.

October 2, 2015

 "Last night I came in the room to find my son sobbing on his bed after bedtime.
  ' What's wrong?' I asked, fully expecting him to be upset about the music he was listening to or a missing stuffed animal, the blankets not being just right, or some such silliness that plagues the lives of small children. Instead my heart nearly broke when he whimpered, 'I want to go back to Tennessee. I miss my friends.'
  'I'm so sorry honey, I know it's hard.' I comforted.
  'No one here likes me, Mom, they all like Ana better!' And my heart broke a little more.
  Trenton is my 'hard to love' child...he's as cute as a button and momma's little snuggle bug but he tends to be extremely shy and standoffish with people he doesn't know. And he practically lives to shock and aggravate others. compared to his social butterfly sister he always comes up short. And as many times as I've reminded him that in order to have friends he has to be friendly, I think a part of his 5 year old little self just feels like it's too much of a struggle and that he just can't measure up to his sister. And underneath that tough, loner exterior he's truly a sweet and very sensitive child.
  So I asked him about the new friends he's made here and whether or not some of them liked him...he nodded a tearful 'yes' then followed that up with 'I just really miss my old friends.'
  I cuddled him on his bed and stroked his cheek while he fell asleep, promising that sleep would make it not hurt quite so much. But my heart has still not quite quit hurting for my baby boy. And it makes me angry with the flippancy that we, as a military family, get treated by those that should be most on our side. Our government is threatening our pay once again because they can't manage to balance the budget and rather than protect military pay (which has been proposed more than once) they use us as pawns. They say they pay us too much but force us to uproot our lives every 2-4 years sending us nearly anywhere on the globe of their choosing. No amount of money could ever compensate of having to comfort my hurting child or the amount of family time that we have missed and will continue to miss. When we're talking over $2,000 just for roundtrip airline tickets for a family of 4 to do down to the Lower 48, that makes seeing family a near impossibility for the next few years...but you're going to say we are paid too much? That we're overly entitled and money is being wasted on us? I'll be the first to say that there is a lot of waste in the Army but it's not being wasted in our pay...not with the sacrifices they are asking us to make. And to anyone that believes that it is being wasted on my family, say that to my face while I cuddle my children who are missing their friends and family after their whole little lives have been turned upside down again and while my husband does his duty for the sake of their freedom."

I still feel as passionately now as I did back then. The moves are hard on all of us. The uprooting, the changes, not being able to see family. My husband has missed the birth of one of his children, multiple birthdays, two anniversaries, and several holidays - and honestly, most of that is just goes with military life.

And we actually do enjoy the military life for the most part. It has it's drawbacks but it has it's really good points too. My husband thrives at his job; it's difficult and sometimes very emotionally taxing, but he's good at it. He's proud of what he does and so am I. We've been some great places and made some amazing, life-long friendships that we wouldn't have had it not been for these moves. It's forced me out of my comfort zone and made me a stronger, better person. So, yes, it is hard, but it's not all bad!

Leaving our friends behind is really difficult but gaining new ones? That's amazing. And we have. ALL of us. Ana, of course, was no surprise at how quickly my little bubbly extrovert made friends. Trenton and I both making really good friends within the first six months of being here is just barely short of a miracle. We have though, and it so wonderful!

Celebrating his 5th Birthday with his very first friend he made
A few more of his friends
Costume Practice for the Christmas play.
He was one of the wise men, I still haven't gotten over that irony!
Trenton and one of his buddies, chilling after having played...well, whatever it is that energetic little boys play!

Playing Legos at one of his favorite places with one of his favorite friends.

They love this place and these friends!

Going to see a movie with his "adopted sister" - or so he wishes. They get along about like siblings do!

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

When Your Quiver isn't Full

I can still remember being a bright eyed pre-teen at my very first Ladies' Conference that I was finally old enough to attend (and not as my mother's prop!). I don't remember who the speakers were or the titles to any of the lessons or even who else was there. I just remember hearing God's purpose to my life. One that would be drilled into me over and over again at similar conferences and later blog posts throughout my teen and young adult years. I could do and be anything I wanted - within an approvable Christian realm, of course - but the greatest calling that any young Christian lady has is within her home. The greatest mark we leave on the world is the mark we make as a mother. And I knew at that very young age, no matter what else I did with my life, I wanted to be a mother.

As I grew older the lessons grew deeper. One recurring theme was based on Psalms 127.

Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.
It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows: for so he giveth his beloved sleep.
Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward.
As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth.
Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate.

Those verses and the lessons and messages taught about them, coupled with being from a "larger" family (5 kids in total), and I just knew that my purpose was to raise a large, beautiful family for the Lord. Maybe not 19 Kids and Counting large but 4-6 sounded about perfect. I would surely find fulfillment in that. My quiver wouldn't be as full as some but it would be full enough.

Then I met and started dating the man of my dreams. HIS idea of a quiver-full was two because those little arrows are time consuming and expensive...and messy and noisy and a little too chaotic for his OCD life (seriously, the arrow analogy only goes so far!). Despite knowing this while we were dating I married him anyways because I just *knew* he would come around to my "Biblical" way of thinking. After all, I had the Bible on my side, right?

That was mistake number one...not in marrying him. That was not a mistake at all, but rather in going into marriage believing I could change his ideology on something like that. Sometimes I wish I could go back and slap my 21 year old self upside the head and tell that self that if I can't be happy with my man the way he *is* then I need to do some serious rethinking. I probably could have saved myself from a LOT of arguments with my husband had I come to grips much earlier with the fact that my husband means way more to me than the amount of children we have; that I'd rather have my husband than have any children at all.

Two children later my dearest love was jokingly questioning if we had one too many. Oh, he loved our little, beautiful heathens but they were everything he had known they would be - expensive, time consuming, messy, noisy, and chaotic in his OCD life. Having another wasn't necessarily out of the question but it was very questionable! It took a year and a half but I finally managed to talk, and slightly guilt, him into agreeing to try for one more. Our "happy" compromise (while I prayed really hard that it would be twins).

I was beyond thrilled when I discovered we were expecting a November baby - the exact month I wanted another child. And beyond devastated when just a few days later we lost the baby. I consoled myself with the thought that we would have another...the fertility rabbits run rampant in my family and we had conceived our other children without hardly trying. Our rainbow baby might not be born in the month I originally wanted but at least we would have another.

Only, we didn't. Month after month I waited with anticipation to see that positive sign on my pregnancy test and month after month all I got were negatives. It didn't take too long for me to realize something was wrong but the question was what? And then a year later we finally found out what...and that there was a very strong possibility that we would never have more children conceived naturally again.

The question turned from "what?" to "why?" Children are a blessing - our heritage; the fruit of the womb is God's reward. So why was He withholding this blessing from us? This was my purpose. I was supposed to find fulfillment in raising children for God. Was I not doing a good enough job? Was God punishing me for guilting my husband into trying for more children when he really wasn't sure he wanted them? I know I'm not a perfect Christian, or even a very good one...but I'm trying. Trying to do right and to raise my children right. So why would God deny me this?

Months turned into years and despite tests, treatments, supplements, and a surgery, we were no closer to our rainbow baby than we were two months after losing him. In those three years I have grappled with over and over the question "why?" Have I failed God? Is this punishment? Is this testing? Why would he allow a single gal living in sin to conceive but deny me? He's the Great why wouldn't He just heal the issue? I struggled with anger and depression. Sometimes finding peace and acceptance only to be pulled back into the vicious cycle when I would find a tiny glimmer of hope just to have it dashed. Over and over I have handed both my children and my hopes for more children to God...only to find that somehow I wound up with that surrender not being quite so surrendered as I had hoped. And not knowing how to truly let go of that desire. It is, after all, a Biblical desire and God promised to give us the desires of our heart, right? And my husband was finally on the same page, not just wanting another child because he knew it would make me happy but really and truly wanting another child. So why would God keep saying no? I just didn't get it.

Honestly, three years later I still don't get it. Along my journey I've met so many wonderful, sweet, Godly ladies that desire children and have none at all. And I don't understand. I'm not sure I ever will.

But somewhere in the last eight months as I struggled with a depression so deep I felt it consuming every part of me God began to bring something to light. For more than 15 years I had believed that my purpose in life, my fulfillment was in being a wife and a mother. I was failing miserably at both. People tried to tell me that I wasn't but - as much as those that said it believed it - they were empty platitudes. I knew I was failing and in more ways than one. I was falling so far short of the mark there were days I didn't even try to make the mark. I'm just not a super-wife or a super-mom. And I never will be. Even more importantly, I realized that for so many years I had failed in realizing what my true purpose was and where my fulfillment lies.

You see, there's another verse in the Bible, one that's well known but often glossed over. I don't remember it ever being talked about at any of the ladies' meeting I went to. I know I heard it but somehow I missed it and it's meaning for my life.

Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power:
for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure
they are and were created ~ Revelation 4:11

I am created for Him; for His glory, His honor, His pleasure. I got so caught up in what I was doing that I forgot why I was doing it. And in many ways I was never really doing it for the right reasons. Oh, sure, I was trying to raise my children for God, but I wasn't focusing on bringing glory to Him. My little quiver of arrows had so become my focus that I forgot about bringing that glory to God.

I've had to several times stop and think about what I'm doing. How I'm handling things. In my relationship with my husband, am I bringing pleasure to God? am I honoring Him? In my relationship with my children, am I reflecting God to them? am I bringing glory to him? In my grief, am I showing God's greatness? His goodness? His power? His glory?

If I'm not, then I am failing in my purpose, my calling in life. Everything I do should be pointing others to God; it should all be to the purpose of bringing pleasure, honor, and glory to God.

I am so, so far from that.

I was so enamored with my own little world that, even though I was "living" for God - faithful to and involved in our church, reading my Bible, praying, teaching my children about Him, talking to others of Him - it really wasn't about Him. It was about checking the boxes and doing "my best" to follow the Bible, to be a "good Christian." And yet I always felt like a failure. My best never really felt quite good enough. It never really was quite good enough.

I'm still trying to wrap my head around "new" concept of what my true purpose is. And I'm still failing more often than not. But on those days when all the "why's?" hit me hard and I break down I pause to ask myself if I'm focusing too much on my own pitiful self and not enough on His glory. I don't have to understand why. I just have to trust Him. Trust that He is still good in this and that He truly wants and knows what is best for me. Even if that best isn't what I would have chosen. I am still coming to grips with the fact that not only is it probable that we will never have anymore children, but we also may never understand why God has chosen this path for us. And I'm still struggling with truly surrendering it all to Him. But when I do...there's this balm that soothes the hurt, that helps me feel not quite so broken inside. When I remember that *He* is so much bigger and greater, that He is always good, and worthy of all honor and glory, then I find peace and even contentment in my heartache.

'Not being able to fully understand God is frustrating,
but it is ridiculous to think that we have the right to limit God
to something we are capable of understanding.

The point of your life is to point to Him.
Whatever you are doing God wants to be glorified
because this whole thing is His.'
~ Francis Chan